Ocean City, Md., officials dispute a real estate company's study that found the popular vacation destination to be the most dangerous city in the state.
According to Movoto.com, Ocean City residents face a one-in-77 chance of becoming the victim of a violent crime and a one-in-five chance of being a victim of a property crime. However, the company acknowledges that it didn't take the city's number of tourists into account and only ranked the 35 Maryland cities and towns with more than 5,000 permanent residents that also report their crime data to the FBI. That left some large areas like Bethesda off the list, said Movoto blog editor Randy Nelson.
Ocean City officials -- including the mayor, police chief and a member of the city council -- say those factors led to a skewed report.
"The study that they did, of course, is erroneous," said Ocean City Council member Brent Ashley, noting the figures are based on "just our year-round population, which increases substantially [in the summer]. It's inaccurate. We are very safe down here."
Nelson says Movoto looks at both violent and property crimes per 100,000 residents, weighing violent crimes more heavily.
Movoto used Ocean City's permanent population -- which stands at just more than 7,000 -- for the study, but that population swells into the hundreds of thousands each summer.
Movoto Communications Director Nick Johnson admits the exclusion of tourists and other temporary residents affects the outcome of the company's popular lists.
"That's a hitch or a hang up in our analysis," Johnson said.
Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan criticized that analysis, releasing a statement that reads in part:
"The Movoto list is highly misleading and frankly, inaccurate. Instead of factoring in our nearly 8 million visitors, it based the crime to our resident ratio on a year-round population of just 7,000. Our population rises to about 300,000 people from May to September. Had those statistics been considered, the results would prove the safety and low crime rate of Ocean City.... We are a safe family-friendly resort and we find the 'hitch or hang up' in Movoto's list irresponsible and incorrect."
Ocean City Chief of Police Ross Buzzuro agreed the study should have taken the visitor population into account.
"In terms of population during the summer months, we are the second-largest city after Baltimore," he said.
"It's unfortunate and it doesn't accurately depict the safety of the town with its crime statistics because they only capture our residents, which are about 7,000-plus, and they took our crime on an annual basis but they didn't take into account our visitor population," Buzzuro said.
Crime is actually decreasing in the seaside city, he said, with a 13 percent reduction in crime last year; 2014 is following that trend.
Nelson, the Movoto blog editor, said, "We don't account for who's committing the crime or when it's happening. We're not making an opinionated statement saying that the people of Ocean City are bad, just that the crimes are happening there."
Baltimore, which is home to more than 625,000 people, landed just two spots above Ocean City and one spot above Elkton. According to the data, Baltimore's rate of violent crimes is higher than Ocean City's.
"We look forward to the upcoming season, when we will welcome our visitors and provide the best possible safeguard for their visit," Buzzuro said, citing a recent CNN list that named Ocean City among the 15 best places for kids to visit.
"We pride ourselves as being a family-friendly and safe resort," said Town of Ocean City communications manager Jessica Waters.
Here are the five safest places in Maryland, according to Movoto's ranking:
- Ocean Pines
If you're interested, Movoto has a similar list for Virginia.